Vegetable garden update

The vegetable garden has been great this season! We are so blessed to be able to have the freedom to grow some veges. Nothing tastes better than home grown heirloom beetroot!!

…and I don’t mind sharing with the bugs! x

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Vegetable garden update

Vegetable bake

Are there certain vegetables you just love? I really enjoy eggplant and zucchini, but it can be difficult to use them in different meals at times. So faced with wanting to devour my favs, and needing a nice mid-week dinner, this vegetable bake was created! The simplicity of the red sauce and the flavours oozing from the vegetables really do make this dish dance!

 

Red sauce ingredients

1 red onion

6 garlic cloves

Olive oil

2 cans of diced tomato or 5 handfuls of fresh tomatoes diced

Salt and pepper to your liking

5 sprigs of parsley

2 big squeezes of a dark balsamic glaze

 

The bulk ingredients

2 zucchinis

2 eggplants

¼ of a butternut pumpkin

A cup of your favourite cheese

 

White sauce ingredients

125 g butter

½ – 3/4 cup plain flour

4 cups of milk

Salt and pepper to your liking

 

Method

Slice your eggplant and zucchini into strips, and cut your pumpkin thinly. Spray with a little olive oil and season with salt, then roast at 180 degrees Celsius for about half an hour. Whilst your waiting for the veges to bake, get on to your sauces!

For the red sauce, splash a little olive oil in a pot and saute your onion and garlic, then add your tomatoes and seasoning. Add most of the herbs (I leave a little for sprinkling on the top later). Simmer on low for fifteen minutes or so. Whilst that’s simmering heat the butter in a saucepan. Once melted add the flour and whisk. If you like your sauce really thick add the ¾ cup flour, if you like it as viscous as honey, add only ½ a cup of flour. Add the milk and season to your liking. Constantly stir the milk into the butter mix until it seems combined. Leave without stirring on medium heat for a few minutes and it will start to thicken. Once it starts to bubble a little, whisk again and keep on heat until it is the thickness you like. Take off the heat.

And now for the build! Place one layer of red sauce on an olive oil sprayed deep rectangular oven dish. Place a layer of eggplant, then pour some red sauce on top.

Now layer your zucchini and pour white sauce on top.

Layer your pumpkin down and then top with red sauce.

You will have enough white sauce for one more layer, use it all! And now sprinkle with your favourite cheese. I have used a finely grated fresh parmesan.

Time for the oven! Pop her in 180 degrees Celsius for about 35 minutes. Serve with a light salad and it will be a lip-smacking meal!

 

Vegetable bake

Chocolate cupcakes

Chocolate. Cupcakes. Ganache. I really don’t know what else to say. These are yummy! Have a crack!

 

Ingredients

125 g butter

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla pod scrapings or essence

2 cups self-raising flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

A dash of milk if required

 

Chocolate ganache ingredients

250 g dark chocolate

3 heaped tbs dollop cream

 

Method

Combine the butter and sugar and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating with electric mixer in between. Add the vanilla, flour, cocoa powder and electric mix until the mix is smooth. If too thick, add a splash of milk. Electric mix for a further minute and you’re ready for the oven! Divide into a patty cake tin lined with paper cases. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes.

This ganache is lovely and easy! Simply melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, add your cream and whisk thoroughly. It will be lumpy at first, but it smoothens out. If you would like it shiny, add a splash of hot water – not more than a tablespoon. If you like it matte in appearance, keep on as is.

Once your cupcakes have cooled, and your ganache is a thickness you’d like, it’s time to ice! I just place a tablespoon of ganache on the top of each cupcake and swirl with the back of the spoon. If you want a more formal look, whip the ganache with an electric beater and then use a piping bag. The trick is to have the ganache at the right temperature, if you rush it and it is too hot it will not hold, so if you piping bag it, wait twenty minutes for the cool down. I hope you and yours enjoy these little lovelies!

Chocolate cupcakes

Pickled fennel

This recipe makes 2 jars of pickled fennel – one for you and one for a dear friend! Or perhaps one to eat as a side and one to use in fennel baked fish! If you haven’t ventured into pickled things before, it is really easy and they last over a month. My family use this pickled fennel as a condiment on the side with dinner, on a roast pork sandwich, or in fish dishes. It is really versatile and delicious! I hope you enjoy it!

 

Ingredients

One large fennel

¾ cup white wine vinegar

½ cup water

1 tbs sugar

1/3 of an orange rind, sliced

 

Method

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and warm over a medium heat for about ten minutes. Add the sliced fennel and orange, simmering for five minutes. Spoon the fennel into sterilised jam jars, pouring the liquid in too. Seal and store in the fridge for at least a week before you try some!

NB if you check out my fennel baked fish, it uses a jar of this pickled fennel to start!

Pickled fennel

Our favourite chocolate slabs

Sometimes I make my own chocolate for this and other times, which I’ve got here, I melt bought chocolate. Most health food shops and delis have lovely 70% dark chocolate so it is easy to come by. Even the Old Gold will do! So use your favourite chocolate, your favourite glace fruits, your favourite nuts and guess what?! You’ll be making your favourite chocolate!

Hazelnuts and ginger!

Ingredients

2 large blocks (at least 220g) of dark chocolate

Glazed cherries

Glace ginger

Glace apricots (or another glace fruit you love)

Roasted hazelnuts (or another nut you adore)

 

Method

Break up your chocolate and place in a steel bowl. Boil a cup of water in small saucepan with the steel bowl on top. Stir every now and then to melt the chocolate through. Once melted, take off the heat and whisk your chocolate until smooth.

Pour your chocolate into a bread tin or your fav banana bread loaf pan that is lined with baking paper. Now dot the other ingredients as you wish. I’ve placed the ginger and nuts together in one tin, whilst in another I’ve combined the glace fruits. Set aside for at least 5 hours until set. I usually serve this cut up in random pieces in lieu of after dinner mints. But hey, if its 10am on a Tuesday and you want to go for it, take it from Nike and ‘just do it’!

Cherries and apricots!

Our favourite chocolate slabs

Muesli bars

These little beauties are cheap and cheerful! I can’t believe how much some people spend on these at the stores, and they’ve got so many little numbers and preservatives written on the box it scares me. So I chose to use the Carman brand of muesli as it has less of the bad, and more of the good! But use whatever muesli you like! This makes me about 12 good size muesli bars. Have a crack and see what you think!

 

Ingredients

Carman’s apple, date and cinnamon muesli

½ cup of honey

60 g dark chocolate if you want it

 

Method

Melt your honey, and then pour it over two cups of the muesli. Use whatever muesli whoever is eating this likes. Stir through really well, coating everything. If you feel you need a little more wetness, just add a little more honey.

Line a slice tray with baking paper, and then spon your mixture into the tray. Press down the mixture well, taking your time. Sometimes I use the back of a spoon, but when my kids make this, they use their hands for fun! Bake your slice at 200 degrees Celsius for about 15 to 20 minutes – just check it is golden brown and not burning!

If you would like a little chocolate, simply melt some chocolate, dark or milk, and then drizzle over your slice once it has cooled down. Cut into portions and then you can keep in an air lock container or individually wrap. This will last about a week.

PS I scrape up the crumbs from the cutting and pop them on top of some Greek yoghurt for a treat! Waste not, want not!

Muesli bars

Caribbean chicken

This dish can be served at a banquet dinner, or relished as a weekday family meal, it really is that versatile. Browning the sugar before adding everything else lifts the chicken, and the breakdown of the meat is as if it has been slow cooked all day. Enjoy this fabulous, stress-free dinner!

 

Ingredients

Splash of olive oil

1 kg chicken thighs

3 chicken breasts

2 onions, cut into quarters

6 garlic cloves, chopped rough

2 tomatoes, cut into large chunks

½ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

A sprinkle of salt and pepper

5 sprigs of thyme

½ cup tomato paste

A handful of parsley, chopped roughly

 

Method

Place the chicken, garlic, balsamic, onions, garlic, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, salt, pepper and thyme into a bowl and stir together. Cover and pop in the fridge for at least half an hour. Go grab a cuppa, read that next chapter, or finish that paperwork!

Now upon returning, sprinkle the sugar into a large deep frypan you have a lid for. Heat on a medium flame for a few minutes, adding the olive oil.

When the sugar starts to change colour spoon everything from the marinade bowl into the saucepan. Once you’ve stirred it around and the chicken is browning, add the tomato paste and a cup of water. Cover and simmer over a low heat for about 45 minutes.

Break up any big pieces of chicken roughly using a fork or your spoon, this will soak up any liquid in the pan. Simmer for ten minutes with the lid off and serve! I usually serve this with ‘all our favourites rice’ or Moroccan rice. However you serve it, serve with love!

Caribbean chicken